A Safe Place
Cold wind blows through me like light through glass.
Constant clicking of rain against the tarps deafens me.
Sirens wail in unison to the psychotic streets.
My eyes are heavy with desperation.
My mind races with fears of the night.
Wrapped tightly in my husband’s arms
A tear streams out with my worries.
Knowing the cold reality of tomorrow
I feel safe if only for a moment.
I am surrounded by gates of comfort.
The doors close out the creatures of my thoughts.
Warm breaths of others fill the air as I drift to sleep.
Cradled in his arms, wrapped in love.
Enclosed in shelter guarded by everyday heroes.
Imagine the Sheriff…
The sheriff showed up at your door one morning, accompanied by a Portland police officer. The officer proceeds to force open your door, without knocking, exclaiming “Police, time to wake up!”…
The officer immediately enters your home, putting on blue rubber gloves, as if you and your home were diseased. No reason is given for their intrusion, and warrant is presented. The sheriff, one hand on his gun, waves his inmate work crew into your home, where they look around eagerly, waiting to be told what to do.
The officer walks through your home, pointing at each of your belongings, and the inmates eagerly grab them over your protests. They take each item to a trailer, where they are tossed onto a pile to be thrown out. You watch in horror as your clothing, bedding, stove, pots and pans, family photos, passport and furniture are taken away.
The officer answers your increasingly desperate protests with a threat to arrest you for interfering with a police officer if you continue to object. You are told you don’t need what has been taken, or that you cannot legally possess it. When you beg them not to return the next day, the officer tells you that if you leave and never return, the harassment will end. But you know better.
Others wait in the neighboring communities, ready to do the same. The uniformed officers leave as abruptly as they came, moving to your neighbor’s house, and on down your block. You know that as bad as this was, the next visit could be the one where your home could be torn down, and your remaining possessions taken from you. If you are lucky, you will have 24 hours to save what you can carry.
This is not an imagined scenario. It is happening every day on our streets. It is the holocaust of the houseless. For the houseless, this unbelievable, illegal violation of both the law and their individual constitutional rights is an everyday occurrence. Laws against crimes like theft, and constitutional protections such as the fourth amendment right to be secure in your belongings and papers, or the 5th and 14th amendment guarantees of due process, do not seem to apply. Conspiracy is not a paranoid delusion for these individuals, but brutal reality.
The County Sheriff, local police and private security, backed by the money and influence of the PBA and other representatives of business interests, work together in a conscious effort to deprive the houseless of their safety, security, belongings, and protection from the elements.
Meanwhile, the City makes a public show of demonstrating its concern by convening commissions, committees and work groups to end homelessness, while those sworn to protect and serve all citizens work daily to end homelessness by chasing the homeless out of Portland. The 10-year plan to end homelessness died a slow death, and its heir, A Home for Everyone, in a bizarre incarnation of social triage, has already made the concession that there will be no homes for the single largest group of homeless individuals: single men. As if to sweep this truth away, the effort to clear the houseless from under every bridge, out of every doorway, off every sidewalk in the City is in full swing.
ODOT, the Portland Police, Multnomah County Sheriff, Portland Patrol Inc. and Pacific Patrol Services work together in this misguided mission. Forced to move away from services that are centered on Old Town, the houseless are entering surrounding neighborhoods in large numbers, bringing fear and backlash against them from residents and businesses.
Homeless in America
Imagine if you will a world where it is illegal to sit down. Could you survive if there were no place to fall asleep, to store your belongings, or to sit or stand still? For homeless people across America, these circumstances are an ordinary part of daily life. In America people are criminalized on a daily basis for just trying to survive. Sitting, standing, sleeping, and eating in public in many cities in the US are illegal.
According to the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, homeless people are criminally punished for being in public, even when they have no alternatives. Homelessness is caused by a severe shortage of affordable housing, and fewer emergency shelter beds than homeless people. Despite a lack of affordable housing and shelter space, many cities have chosen to criminally punish people living on the street for doing what any human being must do to survive.
In Portland for example, there used to be a “sit/lie” ordinance that made it illegal for people to sit or lie on a sidewalk. There is still a law that makes it illegal to cover yourself if you are lying in a park, or public space. Other laws affecting homelessness include: camping in public, sleeping in public, laws against panhandling, sleeping in vehicles, and food sharing. These laws are against the very constitution that everyone has, and against people’s basic human rights as afforded by the UN.
In 3 states, a Homeless Bill of Rights has been passed. These states are Rhode Island, Connecticut, and Illinois. Rhode Island was the first state in the nation to pass a homeless bill of rights, ensuring that no one is discriminated against based on their housing status. For the first time, basic rights; such as the right to vote, to access gainful employment, or gain housing; can’t be denied because someone lists a shelter or a street corner as their address.
Oregon is trying to pass a very similar law that will allow people to shelter themselves, cover themselves, and sleep in a vehicle that is legally parked. Our bill is
Senate Bill 629, and is backed by Senator Chip Shields.
If you are interested in learning more about, or want to support us, please feel free to attend our meeting that are held every 1st, 3rd, and 5th Friday of the month at 11:30 am. The address is 2249 E Burnside in Portland.
One conclusion that could be raised is criminalization laws are ineffective, expensive, and violate the civil rights of homeless people. Both the federal government and the international human rights monitors have recognized criminalization of homeless as a violation of the US human rights obligations.
One example of the expense and criminalization: The Utah Housing and Community Development Commission found that the annual cost of emergency room visits and jail stays for an average homeless person was $16,670. While providing an apartment and a social worker cost only $11,000. By providing housing to its homeless population, Utah has been able to reduce its rate of chronic homelessness by 74%.
Some solutions to this problem could be:
1. Governments investing in more affordable housing.
2. Local governments dedicating resources to ending homelessness in their cities.
3. Communities should adapt a housing first model, which is premised on the idea that pairing homeless people with immediate access to their own apartments is the best way to end their homelessness.
4. Communities should improve police training and practices.
5. Every state should enact Homeless Bill of Rights legislation.
These are just a few of the ideas that could help become a solution to the problem of homelessness. There are probably as many solutions to the problem as there are homeless, but another temporary solution is more rest areas like Right 2 Dream Too.
To get involved with Right 2 Dream Too, come by our rest area at 4th and W. Burnside.
All help is appreciated, and all donations are gladly accepted. You should also go to city council and speak out for your rights, homeless or not. If enough voices are heard on this issue, it will eventually make a difference. If not for yourself, then possibly someone you love.